The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







This article is about singers. For the popular HBO television drama series about the Mafia see The Sopranos. In music, a soprano is a singer with a voice ranging approximately from middle C to the A a thirteenth above middle C (above the treble clef). In four part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, and will usually take the melody.

The word "soprano" generally refers to a female singer of this highest vocal range and to her voice. Male singers whose voices have not changed are known either as "boy sopranos" or, in the Anglican and English Catholic traditions, as trebles. Some adult male singers use a special technique without using falsetto in order to sing in this high range, and they are known as sopranistas.

Historically women were not allowed to sing in the Church, so the soprano roles were given to young boys, and later to castrati, who were men whose larynxes had been fixed in a pre-adolescent state through the process of castration.

More generally, a soprano is the highest member of a group of similar instruments (for example, the soprano saxophone).

Types of soprano

In opera, the character and timbre of soprano voices are often categorized according to the German Fach system. The soprano Fächer, with examples of respective roles, are:

Two types of soprano especially dear to the French are the Dugazon and the Falcon, which are intermediate voice types between the soprano and the mezzo soprano: a Dugazon is a darker-colored soubrette, a Falcon a darker-colored soprano drammatico.

Famous sopranos

Famous sopranos have often caused opera enthusiasts to divide into opposing "clubs" supporting one singer over another. The rivalry between the respective fans of Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi, for example, was one of the most famous of all opera, despite the friendship of the two singers.

See also

Last updated: 09-01-2005 05:58:37